By Marlon Morgan, for NBA.com
Posted May 2 2012 9:58AM
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- For at least one night -- Sunday night to be exact -- Memphis was a city that didn't sleep. And understandably so.
It was a city still stinging, still scratching its' heads, still trying to understand how the Memphis Grizzlies squandered a 27-point second-half lead to the Los Angeles Clippers in a 99-98 Game 1 loss in their Western Conference playoff series.
Count the players amongst the wide-eyed, too. Point guard Mike Conley said he simply walked around his house before tossing and turning in his bed most of the night.
There was guard O.J. Mayo turning on the tape of their fourth quarter collapse, hoping to see a different outcome. He watched it until the wee hours of the morning, as did teammate Zach Randolph.
They no doubt had that sick, empty feeling at the bottom of their stomachs, not unlike the one their fans were left with after witnessing a collapse that saw the Grizzlies lead 95-71 with 9:13 remaining, only to have the Clippers close the game on a 28-3 run.
The Grizzlies went nearly nine minutes without scoring a basket after shooting better than 50 percent for most of the game. The loss snapped the team's franchise-tying 11-game win streak at FedExForum.
It would be easy to assume the Grizzlies, who entered the series holding home court advantage for the first time in five playoff appearances, would not be able to recover from such a debacle.
But when it came time to report for practice Monday afternoon, the sting of that defeat had already left. Preparing for Game 2 on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT) was the only thing on their minds.
"This group is very mentally tough," Conley said. "We've had to handle adversity all year long with injuries and guys being in and out of the lineup. This is just another test for us, another obstacle we have to overcome. I think we'll do it."
It may sound like rhetoric, resiliency is what this Grizzlies team is made of.
Losing Rudy Gay midway through last season didn't stop the Grizzlies from upsetting the top-seeded Spurs for the franchise's first-ever playoff win. It didn't stop them from taking Oklahoma City to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals in a thrilling-yet-grueling series.
It didn't stop them from returning to the postseason this year despite losing last year's playoff hero, Randolph, to a torn MCL in the third game of the season. Randolph, who just recently got back into the starting lineup, still hasn't fully recovered after missing 37 games, yet the Grizzlies managed to claim the No. 4 seed.
The way Memphis sees it, Sunday's loss was just a bump in the road.
"We took them for granted, but they're a great team," Gay said. "When you get up so big, it's kind of easy for you to lose track of what you're doing. But I guess they taught us a lesson, and it won't happen again. ... They made a miraculous comeback. You leave the gym thinking, 'Did we really just lose that game?' "
The Grizzlies have shaken off the Game 1 meltdown fairly easily thanks to their coach, Lionel Hollins, who was his usual comedic self with the media and saw the positives in the loss.
"We were up 27 points," Hollins said. "That's a positive. We just got conservative and quit attacking. You just have to move forward. That game is over. You can't go back and change it. We lost it, and we have to play."
If there's one thing the Grizzlies learned on Sunday it was that the Clippers are not a team that's going to go away easily. L.A. could have done that after three quarters of poor play from their starters, including one of whom, forward Caron Butler, who was lost for four to six weeks after breaking his left hand in the third quarter.
Instead, it was the Clippers' bench, led by Reggie Evans and Nick Young, that turned the momentum. Evans grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds in just 21 minutes and scored the basket that gave his team their first lead of the game at 97-96.
More importantly, it was he veteran leadership during a fourth-quarter timeout that inspired his team.
Young, who scored a team-high 19, dropped three straight 3-pointers in a one-minute span to pull the Clippers to within 96-93.
The Clippers realize they have the Grizzlies attention.
"A series doesn't start until a team loses at home," Butler said. "Now, all the fun begins. I know it was deflating. There was a concert going on when I came over to (to the arena Sunday). When I left, I didn't hear no music. Beale Street was kind of quiet.
"The city is pretty stunned. That's a good feeling to go back to your hotel room, knowing you made a huge statement by coming back."
It should make for another entertaining game on Wednesday.
"We're definitely up for the challenge," Mayo said. "We're pretty much at our best when we have a challenge."
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